That sweet missionary boy from the Mormon epic The Other Side of Heaven starring (and swearing) alongside some bimboid from Troma’s sleaze classic Tromeo & Juliet? On a pay-cable network known primarily for late-night soft porn and Queer as Folk? This must be the end of the world!
Yes and no: True, our own Planet Earth is mysteriously obliterated 10 minutes into Odyssey 5 (debuts Friday, June 21), the new Showtime series that begs the question, “Would you pay extra premium-cable expenses for sci-fi with occasional cusswords and boobies?” More importantly, it also asks, “If you knew your world was ending in five years, would you try to save it or just run up the Visa bill, keep driving your Toyota EarthRaper SUV and subsist on nothing but cheeseburgers, cigarettes and beer?”
Peter Weller (RoboCop—and let’s not forget Buckaroo Banzai), Christopher Gorham (The Other Side of Heaven—ditto Popular), Tamara Craig Thomas (Tromeo & Juliet) and Sebastian Roche (The Peacemaker) are the crew of the space shuttle Odyssey, with Leslie Silva (Providence) as a TV reporter tagging along to cover a routine satellite-recovery mission. A flash of light and violent CGI mega-explosion later, the fivesome (the non-pretty cameraman doesn’t survive, natch) are no longer orbiting Earth, but drifting amongst its debris and quickly running out of oxygen. But, at the last dramatic second, they’re pulled from death’s doorstep into a stark alien craft that resembles a Gap ad and talking with a creature who has taken on a friendly human form, calling himself The Seeker (Sir John Neville). Alleviating the inherent sci-fi cheese of the scene, Roche quips that it’s probably the subconscious by-product of “300 hours of Star Trek.”
Seems that everywhere The Seeker searches for civilized worlds, they’re always blow’d up by the time he gets there—kind of an intergalactic Courtney Love. This, however, is the only time he’s encountered survivors. Being an omnipotent alien, Mr. S reveals that he has the power to send the crew’s present consciousnesses back in time five years (sensing a cinco theme here?) so they can suss out the source of destruction and prevent their planet from being wiped out—again.
Logic would say just keep the damned Seeker away from the galaxy (like certain friends you never, ever take to a bar) and everything would be fine. But there were apparently governmental conspiracies and alien infestations of X-Files proportions a-brewin’ on Earth: The apocalypse came from inside, not outer space. Team Time Warp has at least 18 more episodes to figure it out. Personally, I think Doomsday is triggered by a future Kelly Osborne/Rob Zombie cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but that’s just me.
Odyssey 5 is Showtime’s replacement for the recently departed Stargate SG-1, an inexplicably popular series that always seemed more like JAG with spaceships than decent sci-fi—ironically, it’s now inducing yawns on the Sci-Fi Channel. O5, as the geeks will surely shorthand it, is more the real deal, with mind-blowing visuals (all 16:9 aspect ratio high-definition shot in 24p with Dolby Digital 5.1—whatever the hell all that means, it has techno-dweebs absolutely moist), smart humor and twisting conspiracy plots that could easily go five years, if not longer. And let’s not forget the cusswords and boobies.
But, getting back to the five-years-to-oblivion thing: If you were aware you had only 60 months until the planet was powderized, would you spend ’em working to save civilization or simply getting your end-time freak on? If I know the audience of The Only TV Column That Matters™, it’s nearly as difficult as choosing between Tromeo & Juliet and The Other Side of Heaven … Bring on the cheeseburgers, cigarettes and beer!